I expected darkness. The lower the metal ladder takes me, the lighter it becomes, however. There is no light source other than the dwindling grey circle overhead and yet I am able to see. Perhaps it is a property of the ancient stone I now descend into.
My feet touch ground. A paved tunnel, faintly glowing. Somehow I find this stranger than anything that has gone before, for this reveals a past, a people with the ability to delve and dress rock.
Light beings did not do this. Their slaves did. How long has it been since the first sanctuary seekers vanished into obscurity in this place? Abruptly I feel time itself pressing down.
Shouldering my pack, I walk determinedly forward. I now wish I had not sent Hanna away; a companion will do much to lessen this burden.
My footfalls echo. My heartbeat thunders. My breath leaves me in great gasps. I am afraid. I make so much noise, I think even the dead will wake.
Go back …
Flinching, I halt.
Swallowing, I understand the voices are all around me. The dead are not only awake, but speaking.
“I have to do this,” I say, and my words rebound akin to hollow bells. “I know why you seek to delay me, but too many will die if I stop now.”
Tricks and traps await you. Go back.
The other death is the easier death.
I close my eyes. A host swirls around me, all faceless. My eyes snap open. Thank the stars they have no faces. “My brother will release you from this prison of waiting, but he must survive in order to do so.”
Silence surrounds me. The host is listening.
“Horin is a warrior. He will stand between us and them, this I swear. Help me now, please. Show me what to do. Show me how to save my people and together we will save each other from the otherworld beings.”
I wait a long time, unmoving, and then, I hear these words. This way, my lady. Come this way.